Colorado quarterback Steven Montez has only three career starts under his belt, but he's got the confidence of a veteran.
And, why shouldn't he? As he comes into this next season as the Buffs' likely starter, he's got a group of receivers that most quarterbacks in the country can only dream about. National publications all rank the Buffs' receiving corps among the top five in the country and many have them in the top two.
Most of those rankings are based on what the Buffs have coming back. Of the 214 passes caught by CU receivers last year, players responsible for 213 of those are back. That includes Devin Ross (66 catches), Shay Fields (52) and Bryce Bobo (41), who are all seniors.
Add in junior Juwann Winfree, who missed last season with a torn ACL, and Montez's smile beams even brighter.
"I'm extremely excited," Montez said this past spring. "I think (Winfree) makes us incredibly deep at receiver. We were already deep before we had Juwann playing. The kid is a freak. He's an absolute freak. He's big and has size and has speed. It's going to stretch the field and make us hard to guard in the passing game."
With all that talent at receiver and Montez — who appears to have the tools to excel — pulling the trigger, it's no wonder that head coach Mike MacIntyre believes this year's offense can be among the best in the Pac-12.
"We should be an explosive offense," he said.
BuffZone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffaloes. In this installment, we take a look at the receivers and tight ends.
Returnees: WR — Bryce Bobo (Sr., 6-2, 200); Xavier Cochrane (Jr., 5-9, 170; walk-on); Kevin Dement (Jr., 5-11, 180; walk-on); Kabion Ento (Sr., 6-3, 180); Shay Fields (Sr., 5-11, 185); Johnny Huntley III (So., 6-3, 220); Jay MacIntyre (Jr., 5-10, 190); Derrion Rakestraw (Fr., 6-2, 175); Devin Ross (Sr., 5-11, 185); Lee Walker (Jr., 6-0, 185); Juwann Winfree (Jr., 6-3, 205). TE — Chris Bounds (So., 6-4, 245); Derek Coleman (Fr., 6-5, 220; walk-on); George Frazier (Sr., 6-2, 280); Dylan Keeney (Jr., 6-6, 230)
Additions: WR — Maurice Bell (Fr., 6-0, 170); Cameron Frazier (Jr., 5-10, 180; walk-on); Jaylon Jackson (Fr., 5-10, 175); Erik Lawson (So., 6-4, 180; walk-on); KD Nixon (Fr., 5-8, 180); Laviska Shenault (Fr., 6-1, 205). TE — Eddy Lopez (Jr., 6-3, 315); Jared Poplawski (Fr., 6-4, 220)
Losses: WR — Jaleel Awini (graduated); David Bagby (graduated, walk-on); Danny Galloway (graduated, walk-on); Sean Grundman (graduated, walk-on); Joey Hall (graduated, walk-on); Justin Jan (transferred); Robert Orban (graduated, walk-on). TE — Brian Boatman (graduated, walk-on); Chris Hill (graduated); Sean Irwin (graduated)
2016 recap: It was quite a year for the Buffs' receivers, as Ross, Fields, Bobo and MacIntyre all had exceptional moments. Even Ento made the most of his limited opportunities. Not counting the bowl game, Ross led the team with 66 catches (the seventh-best single-season total in CU history) for 765 yards and five touchdowns. Fields had 52 catches for a team-high 845 yards and nine touchdowns. Bobo hauled in 41 catches for 523 yards and two scores — including the touchdown of year in a 41-38 win against Oregon. Playing out of the slot, MacIntyre caught 30 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown. Ento only caught eight passes, but those went for 174 yards and two touchdowns, and his 21.8 yards per catch average was the best on the team.
2017 outlook: There isn't many receiving corps in the country as good as what the Buffs have this season. Fields is a No. 1-type receiver on most teams in the Pac-12 and, barring injury, he's likely to leave CU among the top three in career catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. With so much talent in this group, Ross may have a tough time duplicating his 66 catches, but if he matches his reliability from last year, he'll be a major weapon again. Bobo is capable of a huge game every Saturday, and while he may not lead the team in the major categories, he's sure to have some memorable moments. The wild card in this year's group is Winfree. Before tearing his ACL in fall camp last August, he was viewed by some as the best receiver in the group. If he proves to be near the top of the group again, he could put up a big season in this offense. If Fields, Ross, Bobo and Winfree all reach their potential, it's tough to see many passes going to others. MacIntyre has been a reliable slot and he's sure to get his fair share of opportunities, however. And, then there's Ento, who was arguably the best receiver on the team in the spring. On top of all that, the Buffs have a group of young receivers (Bell, Huntley, Jackson, Nixon, Rakestraw and Shenault) that a lot of teams would covet. That group may have to wait a year, though. At tight end, look for Frazier (who splits time at defensive line) and Bounds to once again be key blockers, while Lopez (who moves over from the D-line) could help out, too. Keeney could be a receiving threat, while Poplawski could wind up being the best of the bunch.